As you know, Rhode Island was recently classified as one of only two sanctuary states in the country, a disturbing revelation and a costly situation. The figure of just how costly it is to state and local taxpayers popped up yesterday in the course of some related research. F.A.I.R., the Federation for American Immigration Reform, places the cost to Rhode Island of illegal immigration at $278 million per year in 2009.
Think of that. Because state officials have so far declined to implement some very reasonable, simple measures to discourage illegal immigration into the state but have implemented policies that actually encourage it, Rhode Island is needlessly spending an estimated $278 million per year. Aren’t there far more productive things that we could do with that money? My number one priority would be to reduce taxes. What would yours be? Here’s one that’s been on everyone’s mind recently. Spend part of that $278 million to improve our bad roads and bridges and ELIMINATE THE NEED for a highly wasteful, destructive toll program.
Then there are the matters of fairness and legitimacy. For example, the state’s 2011 pension reform was absolutely necessary and, in my view, didn’t go far enough. But how do public retirees feel that Rhode Island adjusted their pension while doing absolutely nothing – in fact, the opposite – to abate the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on illegal immigration? Cuts still very much need to be made to the state’s budget. The philosophy in this circumstance is that “everyone needs to share in the burden of necessary cuts”. But that pre-supposes the legitimacy of the expenditures. In the case of the funding of illegal immigration, there largely IS no legitimacy because it is an expense that arises out of wrong-headed, destructive policies. We don’t even get as far, philosophically, as “illegal immigration needs to share in the burden of budget cuts” because it is an expenditure that largely shouldn’t even be on the table!
Part of then-Treasurer Raimondo’s public education process about the necessity for pension reform included a report called “Truth in Numbers”. (I’d love to link to the report but it is inexplicably no longer available on the website of Rhode Island’s General Treasurer.) FAIR’s truth-in-numbers report about the cost to Rhode Island taxpayers of illegal immigration make it clear that we are long overdue for some serious (but not arduous) reform to our policy and our approach to illegal immigration. Implement e-verify. Get real about checking citizenship qualification for social programs. Eliminate the state’s expensive red-carpet program for pregnant illegal alien women, a federally-optional policy which can only serve to escalate the number of anchor babies born in state. Retract in-state tuition for illegal aliens, passed by constitutionally questionable means. In short, let’s bring both fairness and affordability to the state’s policy on illegal immigration.
[Edit: I added the words “Data from” to the title for clarification.]
Monique Chartier is Communications Director of Rhode Island Taxpayers, a non-partisan taxpayer and business advocacy organization, and Editor of the R.I. Taxpayer Times.